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Understanding Your New Customer Base

It’s time to study up on the preferences of Millennials and Gen Z.

The year I was born, the cutting-edge technology hitting the market was the Sony Walkman priced at $200. In the world of entertainment, the Bee Gees topped the charts, "Superman" flew through the theaters, and the most watched show in America was "60 Minutes."

As a proud member of Generation X, I didn't get my first cellphone until the summer I headed off to college. And you can be sure there wasn't an app to be found on my Nokia flip phone.

Times have certainly changed and, as a result, so have the generations that followed mine. Generation Y, more commonly referred to as the millennials, is the first generation that grew up in the Internet Age. Labeled as "digital natives," this generation is characterized by its familiarity and widespread usage of the Internet, mobile devices and social media. Generation Z, also known as the zoomers, is the first generation to have grown up with access to the Internet and portable digital technology from a young age. Labeled the first "social generation," Gen Z's purchases are heavily influenced by trends they see on social media.

Millennials, who were born between approximately 1981 and 1996, now make up the largest generational group in the United States, while Gen Z, born between approximately 1997 and 2013, is only slightly smaller than the aging baby boomers. Both of these generations are increasingly shaping the convenience store proposition, so operators interested in long-term success would be wise to study up on their preferences. 

The 2023 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, unveiled in our April issue, contains some interesting insights on these influential generations. For instance:

  • Compared to other generations, significantly more millennials and Gen Z report shopping at c-stores more frequently today than they did a year ago.
  • Contactless shopping, mobile ordering, and social media promotions and messaging have more sway over Gen Z and millennials than other generations.
  • Millennials are more likely than other generations to place importance on the quality of the prepared food offered at c-stores, while Gen Z is more likely to cite loyalty programs as important for a positive shopping experience.
  • Both generations value a fun-to-shop store.

C-store operators must recognize that their customer base is undergoing a major demographic shift and react accordingly. It's likely these shoppers are already in your stores, but you may not be fully satisfying their needs. Millennials and Gen Z hold significant buying power. And with their social media prowess, they can be compelling ambassadors for your brand.  

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